The ACT Essay is meant to test your thinking skills as much as your writing skills. Make sure that you see the prompt as more than a plain black & white issue.
What this Think Chart is for: Don’t just jump into answering a question from an ACT writing prompt. A timed essay is not only meant to test your articulation, it’s meant to assess your thinking as well. There’s little point in having sophisticated articulation if there isn’t much of an idea to articulate. So the first skill a good writer needs to obtain is being able to think in complex, abstract terms that consider multiple angles of an argument.
How to use this Think Chart: When given an argumentative essay prompt, think through each of these questions thoroughly and in order. It’s important that you do not just write the first answer that comes to mind, but that you meditate on each question thoroughly. The more answers you can write down for each question, the better.
You don’t have to include all the answers you write down here in your essay. But these questions are designed to get you thinking about the prompt’s various angles. Most writers will dive in and address the black and white issues of a prompt without acknowledge the more interesting and problematic aspects of it. To stand out from other writers, you need to demonstrate an ability to think more deeply.
The first time you work through this chart should take about an hour. So grab an ACT writing prompt and begin working through this question by question. Then keep practicing through this with different prompts, slowly but surely whittling down the total time spent on it. After about 10 prompts, you’ll find that your mind is automatically answering these questions.
Your goal is to be able to think through this chart in about 2 minutes for any given ACT writing prompt. That way, when you’re actually taking the ACT, you can quickly think deeply about your essay prompt and move on to actually writing!
The general idea is that you want to be able to think about the prompt in general, how your opinion fits into the prompt’s context, what others’ opinions might be, and the strengths and weakness of yours and others’ perspectives. This is a well-rounded, holistic way of identifying the breadth and depth of your argument.
ACT Prompt THINK Chart
1. What exactly is the prompt asking?
2. What change is being proposed?
3. Who desires a change, and who wouldn’t desire a change?
4. What are the believed benefits if the change is made?
5. What is wrong with the way the situation is now?
6. What larger context does this situation fit into?
7. Who are the intended recipients of your response?
8. What are the multiple possible responses to this situation?
9. What do you propose? Which side do you support? What are the IMPLICATIONS of the side you choose? What will change based on your decision, and whom will it change for?
10. What reasons do you have to support your opinions?
11. Who might disagree with you and what opinions might they have?
12. What reasons do they have for their opinions?
13. What is wrong with the opposite side’s opinions?